Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jerry Manuel: Managing by Arson

Twenty-two hours later and the Mets' 2-0 loss to the Brewers still hurts. Not because the Brewers beat the Mets--both teams are basically .500 squads and it was a road game for the Mets. No, it's how it was lost, and specifically, manager Jerry Manuel's utter disregard for a little thing called common sense.

For those that haven't seen the game or read the boxscore, here's the scenario entering the bottom of the 9th:
  • 0-0 score;
  • Johan Santana was pitching quite well (5 baserunners in 8 innings) and had thrown only 105 pitches;
  • Due up for the Brewers were their two best players, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, followed by the not-horrible Casey McGehee and the hitting-well Corey Hart.
Jackass Jerry has three options here.
  1. Leave in Johan, who's only their best pitcher and had put together a fine effort for the first 8 innings.
  2. Pull Johan for a lefty to face Fielder, and then put in K-Rod to get out Braun, McGehee and Hart, who are the only other three hitters in the Brewers lineup you care about.
  3. Pull Johan for a lefty to face Fielder and then put in your 5th best reliever to face the rest of the meat of the Brewers lineup.
It's unclear which is the better of option of #1 or #2. I'm of the opinion that if you're going to go down, go down with your best players on the hill. That's Johan Santana. And while 105 pitches isn't a small amount, for 8 innings, it's fairly impressive. There was zero reason to take him out, especially because the Brewers best hitters were coming up. Is there a single person on the Mets' pitching staff that had a better chance to get through the 3-6 part of the order than him?

Well, okay, maybe Santana's gassed and tells you this in the dugout, and you decide that he's had enough. Fine...oh wait. Jerry Manuel said that he never consulted his best pitcher before pulling him and took him out because Santana was fired up when he struck out Carlos Gomez in the 8th inning:

Manuel also said that when Santana recorded the final out of the eighth on a strikeout of Carlos Gomez, the ace was overly excited on the mound. The manager indicated those sorts of demonstrative showings, such as a fist pump, are often telltale signs that a pitcher has expended his last burst of energy and is ready to be removed.

Wow. Okay, so the source for the Mets' manager's information isn't logic, the pitcher's opinion or a single piece of data, it's the fact his pitcher showed emotion. This inspires great confidence that Manuel knows how to manage a team that's had half its roster spend a good portion of the last two years in the ER.

Anyway, so you're taking out Santana. Let's just assume that's not a stupid move. The next thing Manuel did is bring in LOOGY Pedro Feliciano, which is fine, because Prince has a decent split between facing righties (.294/.404/.568) and lefties (.257/.335/.484). And this move pays off, and Fielder makes the first out.

Now Feliciano is coming out, because Braun eats up lefties. Fine. And Jerry decides to bring in...

Ryota Igarashi???

Why not Francisco Rodriguez? No really....why not the best reliever on your staff to face the 4-5-6 portion of the Brewers lineup? Manuel hasn't said so, but there's only one possible explanation: because it wasn't a save situation. We know K-Rod was available, because he had warmed up an inning earlier.

This logic is patently absurd and probably cost the Mets the game. Your best pitchers should face the other team's best hitters. There is no other reason to have pitchers like Santana or K-Rod but to get out the other team's best hitters. Letting crap artists like Ryota Igarashi face Ryan Braun and Corey Hart when you have your best relief pitcher available isn't stupid, it's managerial malpractice.

So Jerry, that's another game you've cost the Mets this year by letting the save rule dictate how you use your pitchers. Congratulations on wasting a vintage Santana performance and crushing all the momentum that the team built up during its sweep of the Phillies, and for giving every fan a bad taste in their mouth. It's about the 6th time you've done it this year, and it isn't even Memorial Day. Just remember this when you're polishing your resume in October.

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